TAMPA, Fla. — Antenna maker Kymeta said March 15 it has raised $84 million to expand manufacturing facilities ahead of deploying its first flat panel, electronically steered user terminals for low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites this year.

Existing investor Bill Gates led the funding round, joined by South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Systems and other investors.

Hanwha, which has plans to deploy a LEO megaconstellation by 2030, invested $30 million in Kymeta in December 2020.

Kymeta said the company is now nearly fully funded after commercially launching the first version of its u8 steerable terminal in November 2020 for satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO).

The company’s latest funding round had sought to raise nearly $132 million, according to a regulatory filing.

Doug Hutcheson, executive chair and co-CEO of Kymeta, told SpaceNews the extra funds enable it to get “into the deeper phases of commercialization,” including expanding sales teams and manufacturing operations.

He said Kymeta is preparing to deploy a third-generation u8 this year to reduce costs after selling “thousands” of the terminals to customers, including defense contractor Kratos and communications equipment maker Comtech. GEO satellite operator Intelsat is also a Kymeta investor and is on the antenna company’s board of directors.

According to Hutcheson, Kymeta will be “selling terminals this year on select applications in volume” for GEO applications “in the thousands of dollars,” compared with available antennas in “the low tens of thousands.”  

He said Kymeta also plans to commercially launch two more antennas this year: One dedicated to connecting LEO spacecraft and another that can switch between satellites in GEO and LEO.

Kymeta announced a partnership Dec. 1 to deploy terminals for stationary land applications on OneWeb’s LEO broadband network by the third quarter of 2022.

OneWeb had planned to have deployed enough satellites in LEO by the end of this summer to provide global services. However, it paused deployment March 3 after deciding to stop using Russia’s Soyuz rocket amid the war in Ukraine.

With nearly two-thirds of OneWeb’s 648 satellites in LEO, the company has said it can provide services to at least the upper parts of the northern hemisphere.

Hutcheson said Kymeta’s partnership with OneWeb remains intact despite the deployment disruption.

“The satellite coverage available in northern latitudes has been so deficient [because] the geosynchronous orbit has limits on what it can do,” he said.

“So is there interest even in those northern latitudes for product from the likes of Kymeta? Absolutely — there’s no question.”

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...